Sunday, May 24, 2009

the future: writing and teaching

Sunday, May 24, 2009
an MFA-bound friend shared these two links with me:

Life After the MFA: Four Years Later, Taking Stock
Writers Index 2008-2009

sobering, to say the least. reading these struck me especially hard given my lack of productivity over the past several weeks--but i figure sometimes it's more important to live than to write. (heresy?!) and sometimes you're just too mired in confusion to be noble about admitting it on paper... i think that's where i've been.

luckily, on the same day that my friend sent me these links, i received my teaching assignment for fall 2009. i'll be teaching creative writing to a bunch of undergrads (as many as 24 of them, actually), and i am completely stoked. already i've begun mulling over lesson plans. what is the crux of what i need to convey to these impressionable young would-be writers? (ok, let's set aside for the moment the possibility that at least one of my students will be as old as i am.) i know what matters to me in a piece of writing, and i know what, when omitted, leaves a work lifeless and forgettable for me. i also know that this thing is not exactly the same as it is for other writers or devoted readers. maybe i am less forgiving of writing (and many things in life) than a lot of writers and teachers. still, i think it's hard to disagree that the heart of (in) a work of fiction or nonfiction is what makes it come to life and mean something long after the pages have disappeared from view. i think this is the idea i'll push the hardest: that to write well, you have to dig into the dark, deep, painful place inside you where nothing is articulated and nothing is comprehensible. and then you have to stay there. honestly, i think this is what makes not only a good writer, but a good human being.

i look forward to seeing how this little experiment turns out.

meanwhile, i just finished robert boswell's The Half-Known World, a book of essays on craft. i picked it up initially because boswell is the director of the NMSU creative writing MFA program, where i was admitted, and i'd heard wonderful things about him as a workshop leader and professor. after reading this book, i can see how this would be the case, and i'm a little sorry that i will probably not have the chance to have him as a teacher, but i guess reading his work is the next best thing. (not that i in any way regret choosing Minnesota--boswell is retiring from NMSU next year, anyway. and i am beyond thrilled to have julie schumacher leading my fall workshop--i've spent maybe an hour with her and i already love her.)

i can never get enough of reading craft books--they seem more reliable in inspiring me to write than do works of fiction or creative nonfiction. i guess lately i've just felt too emotionally vulnerable to be able to afford opening up a book and having an author get it wrong. does anyone know what i'm talking about? sometimes i am so embarrassed about being both poorly read and a total snob about what i do read.

3 comments:

found said...

can't wait to check out the links.

i hope julie will teach a fiction workshop sooner than later!

my workshop instructor from the class i just finished suggested this book to me: "write from life," by meg files. some good advice so far. i'm in the middle of three different craft books, too, and still reading "feast of love." my teacher made a comment in class that kind of hit me upside the head, though: "sometimes writers read craft books as a way to avoid actually having to write." i'm definitely guilty of that one.

i can't believe i'm going to be in charge of teaching people! i need to pull myself together.

"to write well, you have to dig into the dark, deep, painful place inside you where nothing is articulated and nothing is comprehensible. and then you have to stay there. honestly, i think this is what makes not only a good writer, but a good human being." i agree, in many many ways. i feel like there's a lot i could say about this, but i'm too sleepy to say it...raincheck : )

Gwyn said...

haha, good point re: avoiding writing with craft books... but i figure i have so many procrastination methods at hand that if i'm using one that at least gets me a little closer to writing well, then i'm not going to berate myself. i mean, come on, it's better (for my writing) than watching 4 straight hours of arrested development (which is what i did yesterday)... amirite? :-]

found said...

yes, i agreeeee!!!! and it really does help, sometimes---it kicks me in the head and leads to something.

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